Silly Market sees Main Street setting, weekly calendar as key amid talks with Park City leaders
The Park Silly Sunday Market, since it started in 2007, has set up its eclectic mix of vendors, food purveyors and entertainers on lower Main Street, drawing crowds to the stretch of the street north of the Heber Avenue intersection.
There have been operational changes over the years that have expanded some of the offerings to the upper section of Main Street, but the core of the popular event remains on the lower stretch.
As the Silly Market, Main Street businesses and City Hall engage in difficult talks about the future of the event, the organizers of the weekly bazaar hope an agreement can be struck that keeps it on Main Street. The top staffer at the Silly Market, which is a not-for-profit organization, described the desire to remain on the shopping, dining and entertainment strip
Kate McChesney, the Silly Market’’s executive director, said in an interview the Main Street location has been a key to the success of the market. She also said turning the Silly Market into a monthly event rather than the weekly one as it is now is not financially feasible for the organization.
McChesney said representatives from other locations have approached the Silly Market over the years about moving the event from Main Street. Some of those overtures occurred within the past year, she said. McChesney declined to provide details about locations, including whether they were inside Park City or in the Snyderville Basin.
The comments about a desire to remain on Main Street are important in the weeks before Mayor Nann Worel and the Park City Council are expected to return to their discussions about the future of the Silly Market. The elected officials in early November held a wide-ranging talk about the event and received broad input, highlighting the split opinions that are lingering about the Silly Market years after the event launched.
McChesney hopes the City Council, at a Dec. 15 meeting, endorses a one-year agreement for the event to be held on Main Street. That would allow the sides time to negotiate a longterm deal, she said. The most recent agreement between the Silly Market and City Hall to hold the event on Main Street expired at the end of September, meaning another one is needed to cover at least the 2023 season.
There is likely some urgency on the Silly Market side since the preparations for the event, which is held in the summer and early fall, begin months before the opening day in June.
It is also likely the upcoming talks could be tense. The split among Main Street businesses was highlighted in an October survey conducted by the Historic Park City Alliance, a group that represents businesses in the Main Street core. One of the key findings showed the majority of the members of the organization did not support the contract renewal under any circumstances.
There is long-running concern about depressed sales in the brick-and-mortar businesses on Silly Market days, as the crowds bypass them in favor of the event. Some of the operational adjustments to the Silly Market over the years were made in an effort to boost sales at the businesses on Main Street. There remains some consternation even after the alterations to the logistics, such as tinkering with the event’s hours and introducing some Silly Market elements on the upper section of Main Street.
A longtime Main Street businessman, Java Cow owner Ken Davis, in November, meanwhile, delivered lengthy testimony to the elected officials that was critical of the Silly Market logistics. Davis in his comments said he wanted the Silly Market moved off Main Street.
McChesney said the Silly Market continues to meet with Historic Park City Alliance and her organization and Main Street are “friends in the sandbox.” She said the Silly Market can usually address the worries of individual businesses.
McChesney acknowledged, though, there has been concern and that the “perception of us taking away from brick-and-mortar seems to be the common denominator.” She countered that the Silly Market draws large crowds to Main Street and there is a need to understand why the businesses are not benefitting.
“If we were able to understand exactly what some of the concerns were, we would be . . . open and willing to address them,” she said.
Although PEG’s application has been withdrawn, Vail’s development rights remain.
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